Ryan McGuire of UCLA last week enjoyed what many college baseball players might consider an outstanding season.
McGuire, a junior first baseman from Woodland Hills, entered the week batting .212 with one home run and three runs batted in in nine games.
But in four games--a nonconference victory over Loyola Marymount and a three-game Pacific 10 Conference Southern Division sweep of No. 11-ranked Arizona--McGuire had 13 hits in 20 at-bats (.650), including eight homers. McGuire also drove in 22 runs and raised his average to .377.
UCLA Coach Gary Adams described McGuire's performance last week as the best he has seen in more than 30 years as a player and coach in college baseball.
"I was conscious of what was happening, but it was like it was happening to someone else," McGuire said.
McGuire, a preseason All-American, was one of the last players cut from the Olympic team last summer. His performance last week helped UCLA improve to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-10. UCLA is ranked No. 6 by Baseball America, the Bruins' highest ranking since 1987, when they were No. 2 in a preseason poll.
All six members of the Pac-10 Southern Division are ranked among the top 25. UCLA, which has not won the Pac-10 since 1986, is in second place behind No. 19 California (2-0-1). USC (3-3), ranked No. 21, is third, followed by Arizona (4-5), 13th-ranked Stanford (2-4) and 14th-ranked Arizona State (2-3-1).
Trivia time: Which major leaguer is the only player in NCAA history to win 15 games and hit 20 home runs in the same season as a collegian?
Dante's inferno: Dante Powell of Cal State Fullerton will never forget his 0-for-Omaha performance in the 1992 College World Series.
Powell, a starting outfielder his entire freshman season, was hitless in 12 at-bats during the double-elimination tournament and spent the nationally televised championship game against Pepperdine on the bench.
"Going in (to the World Series), I thought I had to hit two home runs, steal four or five bases and do as much as I could, because so many people were watching," Powell said. "My own expectations were too big.
"I learned from that experience. You can't put that much pressure on yourself and do well. If we get back to the World Series, I won't make that mistake."
Powell, 6 feet 2, 180 pounds, has moved from left field to center field and from ninth to second in the batting order. He entered the week batting .328, with three home runs and a team-high 10 runs batted in for No. 7-ranked Fullerton (8-6), which lost to top-ranked Georgia Tech and Minnesota and defeated Arkansas in a tournament at Minneapolis last weekend.
Powell passed up a $425,000 offer from the Toronto Blue Jays when they selected him out of Long Beach Millikan High with a first- round sandwich pick in the 1991 draft. He struggled at times last season, but still batted .309 with five homers, 32 RBIs and a school-record nine triples.
"I knew that after I turned down that big chunk of money, I was going to have to prove myself," Powell said. "I put a lot on my shoulders thinking that I had to hit .300 or .400 and do this and that. I had eyes on me all the time, and I thought I had to live up to other people's expectations.
"This year, it's different. I'm playing for the team and for myself."
Oceans of talent: Freshman infielder Jeff Liefer of Cal State Long Beach is hitting the ball--and the waves--more often than any player on the 49ers' roster.
Liefer, a sixth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians out of Upland High, is batting .377 with four home runs and 12 RBIs, all team highs. He hit home runs in each of the 49ers' three games at Miami and tied a school single-game record with three doubles against UC Riverside pitcher Daron Kirkreit, a member of the 1992 Olympic team.
Liefer never found time to learn how to surf in high school because he was too busy playing sports. But this semester, in addition to their required 12 units, Liefer and teammates David Goldstein and Brian Whatley are taking a course in surfing. They don wetsuits in the morning and baseball uniforms in the afternoon.
"They don't really teach you too much because most people already know what they're doing," Liefer said. "We check in at the beach, and then we're pretty much on our own.
"College has been pretty fun so far."
Where they are now: Mike Gerakos, baseball coach at UC Irvine for 12 seasons before the school dropped the 23-year-old program last May, is working with two marketing groups, assisting at University High in Irvine and giving individual lessons to players in the area.
Gerakos, 42, compiled a 312-338-8 record with the Anteaters. He said coaching at the collegiate level again has been put on the back burner.